WARNING: science-based nutrition will rock your world.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Magnesium: What’s the Big Deal? Crazy People, Listen Up.

 Magnesium is best known as a common treatment for constipation and heartburn, but in the old south, it was also used to cure dandruff and acne, and held the same medicinal status as turpentine. Our great-grands may not have been hip to the role Magnesium plays in maintaining a healthy body, but they respected it as good medicine.

Poor Man Food Magnesium is found in many whole foods, including collard greens – another constant source of nourishment for many poor families in yesterday’s South. Although over-cooked to slimy consistency, the pot liquor never went to waste. A hot skillet of buttermilk cornbread was doused with the liquid, or it was drunk like coffee. A bowl of magnesium-rich pinto beans usually rounded out the meal. Additionally, black strap molasses – a delicious source of magnesium – sat on the kitchen table alongside apple cider vinegar and homemade pickled peppers. Today’s organic gardens are amended to reap the full benefit of soil nutrients, and produce a bounty of magnesium-rich broccoli, spinach, and Swiss chard - considered upstart vegetables to some old gardeners who still prefer the poor man’s dinner of collards, pintos and cornbread.


Magnesium plays a critical role in cell function, and is necessary in nearly every process in our body. Calcium and magnesium should always be taken together to help regulate nerve and muscle tone. Green leafy vegetables are nature’s best source of magnesium.

• Relaxes nerves and muscles
• Builds and strengthens bones
• Keeps the blood circulating smoothly
• Helps prevent tooth decay
• Serves as an anti-inflammatory
• Helps prevent insomnia
• With vitamin B6, may be beneficial for autistic children
• Useful in treating menstrual problems by decreasing lower back pain and cramps
• Necessary for calcium uptake

Deficiency Signs
The liver, brain, heart, and kidney are affected first when the body is deficient in magnesium. Signs of magnesium deficiency include the following:
• Muscle weakness, tremor, spasm, and / or loss of sensation in the extremities
• Elevated blood pressure
• Imbalanced blood sugar levels
• Headaches and insomnia
• Psychiatric disorders such as short or long-term depression, delirium and behavioral disturbances

Factors Contributing to Depletion
• Insufficient diet, including food devoid of nutrients (processed, chemical-laden "Frankenfoods")
• Alcoholism
• Diabetes
• Overmedication with antibiotics and diuretics
• Oral contraceptives
• Gastrointestinal disorders
• Bulimia
• Mental and physical stress, including extreme cold, trauma and surgery

Toxicity and Adverse Reactions
Magnesium toxicity is rare, except in individuals with kidney failure. The most common side effect from high magnesium intake is diarrhea.

Nutrient-Rich Food Sources
• Fresh organic greens, including Swiss chard, spinach, collards, kale and mustard
• Summer squash, broccoli, cucumbers, celery, and tomatoes
• Seeds, including pumpkin, sesame, flax (ground), and sunflower
• Green, pinto, and black beans
• Quinoa and buckwheat
• Wild-caught (not farm-raised) salmon
• Organic raw chocolate (cocoa nibs)

Average Recommended Daily Dosage Range
Children age 1 – 13: 80 - 240 mg
Teens and young adults age 14 – 18: 300 – 400 mg
Adults age 19+: 350 – 750 mg
Higher dosages may be indicated for angina, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, hypertension, oral contractive use, osteoporosis, and menstrual problems; please consult your Naturopathic doctor or Holistic Nutrition professional if you suffer from magnesium deficiency signs listed above or for help determining you or your child’s individualized therapeutic dose.

Instructions for Taking Supplemental Form
Magnesium plus calcium and vitamin D is a winning combination because each nutrient enhances the absorption and benefits of the other. Follow label instructions, or your health care professional’s advice.

Lieberman, S. and N. Bruning: The Vitamin and Mineral Book, 4th ed. (New York: Penguin, 2007)

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